Mars Rover Programming

Hello and welcome to the Mars Rover Project! I am Mr Spacey and I'm the CEO and Head Researcher of Mars Industries.  We've managed to place a specially designed rover on Mars to explore and collect data on minerals (which can then be analysed back on Earth in our labs).  This rover has been created with 6 wheels, allowing it to move in any direction, which is benficial as the surface of Mars contains many craters and mounds which need to be avoided.

The rover has just picked up that an unknown specimen is not too far away, however, the surface of Mars around this area is tricky to move around.  This is where you and your partner come in.  We need specially trained rover operator teams to program its path around the rocky terrain, so that it doesn't get damaged.

Click on the Task tab.

We need to get the rover to the specimen as soon as possible to discover what it is (it might be an alien life form - how exciting!!).  We need your partnership's knowledge of rover programming to be able to direct the rover to its new location.  As your team has not worked with our software before, we have a few training exercises for you to complete first before programming the rover - just so you all can practise and familiarise yourself with the commands and work together.

By the end of this webquest you and your partner together will be able to implement computer algorithms to create desired movement sequences.

Work through the tasks on the following pages to get started.  Good luck!!

Click on the Process tab

So you know what we're up against, we've used all our information from the rover and digital footage of Mars to create a simulation of the path that would be best for the rover to take.

Watch this simulation by clicking on the left image.

Now your team knows what the terrain is like, you need to practise using our software. The following 2 games will help you, as they are based on building block codes like our own program. Have a go at both (you do not need to complete all the levels of each, but choose a selection of both lower and higher levels, until you become confident in creating directions with the blocks).  Keep in mind your team has a deadline (4 lessons) to completely finish the tasks and successfully program the rover.

The first game is called Blocky: Maze - you need to build command sequences in the allocated numer of moves to get the Astronaut to the end of the path (click the left image) (Google Project Hosting, n.d.).

The second game is called Lost in Space - it also has block commands that need to be linked together to move the astronaut to its new location (click the right image) (Neuron Fuel, 2014).

Click the Evaluation tab for your next task.

Congratulations you have finished the required training! Now its time to program the Rover.

Your wage from helping Mars Industries will be determined by the following pay scales and criteria (determined by your supervisor).  It is based on your teams program knowledge and how well you worked together to implement it.  Marks will be lost if your supervisor believes your team has damaged the rover or impacted upon the environment (we want Mars to look like we were never there).

Grade A B C D E
Coding knowledge was implemented effectively and efficiently (for e.g. using a direct path & repeat command blocks) The rover moved in the direct path of the simulation and minimal controls were used for efficiency The rover moved in the path of the simulation and an acceptable amount of controls were used for efficiency The rover moved in a similar direction to the simulation. Number of controls could have been reduced The rover attempted to follow the path but had many wrong turns. Too many controls used The rover did not follow the path. Too many controls used
The Rover successfully negotiated the terrain of Mars and was not damaged (e.g. by scraping against mounds or falling into craters) The rover moved flawlessly between obstacles to get to the specimen The rover slightly touched obstacle/s whilst moving to the specimen (minor scrapes to outside shell of rover) The rover touched obstacle/s whilst moving to the specimen (significant scratches to outside shell of rover) The rover hit obstacles which caused serious damage to the structure The rover hit obstables which caused critical damage to the structure

Here at Mars Industries we use a program called Scratch. Follow the steps below to begin programming.

1. Click on the link below and log in (this will be your team ID and password supplied by your supervisor)

Scratch program (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, n.d.).

2. Press the create button on the top left menu

3. Upload the background image of mars *

4. Upload the Mars Rover sprite*

(* Supervisor will direct as to the location of these files on the computer)

By now Scratch should look like this:

5. Program the Rover using the scripts menu and link blocks together (like you did in training) to make the rover move around the craters and mounds.  You will need to direct it on a similar path to the simulation to avoid the obsticles.

6. When you have got the rover to the specimen, hit save and show your superviser who will report back to me.

7. Publish your simulation by pressing the share button.

Click the Conclusion tab to proceed

Your teams has finished! Thank you for all your help! The rover is currently transmitting the specimen data back to our labs, so that we can analyse the information and find out what the object could be. Well done!

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2014a). Cross curriculum priority: Sustainability. Retrieved May 16, 2014, from


ACARA. (2014b). Digital technologies. Retrieved May 16, 2014, from…


ACARA. (2014c). Technologies: Organisation. Retrieved May 16, 2014, from


Blocky: maze [Image]. (n.d). Retrieved May 15, 2014, from


Cartoon scientist [Image].(2014). Retrieved May 15, 2014, from


Coding cartoon [Image]. (n.d). Retrieved May 15, 2014, from


Google Project Hosting. (n.d.). Blocky: Maze [Learning Object]. Retrieved May 15, 2014, from


Mars rover coding [Image]. (2014). Retrieved May 15, 2014, from


Mars rover project simulation [Image]. (2014). Retrieved May 15, 2014, from


Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (n.d.). Scratch [Learning Object]. Retrieved May 15, 2014, from


Ministerial Council for Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs. (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Retrieved April 5, 2014, from


Neuron Fuel. (2014). Tynker - Lost in space [Learning Object]. Retrieved May 15, 2014, from


Nanorover cartoon [Image]. (2011). Retrieved May 15, 2014, from


Thumbs up cartoon [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2014, from


Tynker image [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2014, from

This resource package is designed in conjuction with the Australian Curriculum - Digital Technologies strand for Years 5/6 and addresses the following descriptors:

Digital Technologies processes and production skills (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA], 2014b)

Implement digital solutions as simple visual programs involving branching, iteration (repetition), and user input (ACTDIP020)

Elaboration: experimenting with different ways of representing an instruction to make a choice, for example branches in a tree diagram or using an ‘IF’ statement (a common statement used to branch) to indicate making a choice between two different circumstances using a spreadsheet or a visual program

Digital Technologies knowledge and understanding (ACARA, 2014b)

Investigate the main components of common digital systems, their basic functions and interactions, and how such digital systems may connect together to form networks to transmit data (ACTDIK014)

Elaboration: investigating how the internal and external components of digital systems are coordinated to handle data, for example how a keyboard, central processing unit and screen work together to accept, manipulate and present data and information

To implement this webquest, all students (or pairs) must have access to a computer with a reliable internet connection.  It is expected that students will have extensive computer experience from a combination of prior schooling and their home life which will allow them to efficiently engage with online resources.  This resource targets the key idea of computational thinking of the Australian Curriculum as students problem solve an authentic theme, necessitating the need for them to implement strategies in planning and creating appropriate algorithms under set preconditions (ACARA, 2014c).  Students will also address the key idea of design thinking when they write precise instructions for manipulating computer objects through mazes, test their sequences and modify solutions (ACARA, 2014c).

The developed webquest also contributes to the cross curriculum priority of sustainability as it is themed around exploration of an ecological system in space - something that advancing technologies will continue to study.  As students are graded on how well they can manouvre the rover around geological objects, they learn the importance of protecting environments for the future (ACARA, 2014a). General capabilities in ICT are also developed through interaction with online multimodal programs which is important as young people need to be highly skilled in using, sharing and communicating via ICT in this digital age (Melbourne Declaration on the Educational Goals for Young Australians [MCEETYA], 2008)

The webquest is designed to take up a short unit (4 lessons), however, it can be further elaborated on to become part of a sequence of work or even an integrated technology and science unit on space exploration.  A Lego mindstorm kit can also accompany the resource and make the experience more authentic for students.  Students' finished scratch codes can be downloaded on to the mindstorm kit and a real identical obstacle course can be set up in the classroom, where the lego mindstorm tries to negotiate the track using students' scratch codes. Students can then explore and describe how these digital systems connect.  However, if this is unavailable then the resource can stand alone and teach students valuable programming skills.

Teachers should familiarise themselves with the links before implementing this resource into the classroom.  Coding can be difficult for students - even in building block sequences, so teachers will most likely need to assist students and answer questions about the programs.  When the role of supervisor is mentioned in the Webquest, it is refering to the teacher.  A rubric has been provided based on students knowledge of programing and how well it has been implemented.  The teacher/school should also ensure that students have permission from parents to create Scratch accounts in order to complete the activity.

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